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28 Safe in the shadow – Timothy Dudley-Smith

Timothy Dudley-Smith (1926 - ) from Psalm 91
© administered by Oxford University Press in Europe (including UK and Ireland) and Africa, and by Hope Publishing Company in all other territories (including USA), used by permission. All rights reserved.

The recording was produced for Premier Christian Radio, by Pam Rhodes. The recording of the hymn is by Rachel Paine and her daughters, Lucy and Alice, and reproduced by permission.

Timothy Dudley-Smith

Welcome to my new home in Cambridge. I always enjoy a cup of coffee, and I wish I could offer you one, but of course we are self-isolating, apart from anything else. My daughter, Sarah, who lives just round the corner, is my carer, so she can come in and indeed is being cameraman today, so that you can see me, I hope.

I say ‘my new home’, because I spent most of last year downsizing, and getting ready to move house from a family home in Wiltshire to this flat. And I know service families, for example, think nothing of moving house; they may do it twenty or thirty times, but I’ve been in that house for nearly thirty years, and I must say that it was a much more exhausting business than I expected it to be. I had a lot of help from family and friends, but even so, by the time I got here, ‘I was running on empty’, was my expression. I was totally exhausted and not really very well.

And in those circumstances, this little book comes into its own. It’s called Daily Light, and it’s a book full of Scripture. It has the pages numbered according to the calendar, and then portions of Scripture, grouped round a theme. So they make for very easy, simple reading for somebody who’s not feeling too well, and a bit confused in their mind trying to think of too many things at once: chicken soup for the soul, perhaps!

This copy was a wedding present. I think you’ll see, if I read you two or three bits from one page, why it was really of help to me in a difficult time.

It begins with some words of Jesus, and indeed what I am going to read to you now are words of Jesus or from the Psalms.

‘Take no thought, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?”, or “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”, for your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.

‘O fear the Lord, ye saints, for there is no want to those that fear him. Young lions do lack, and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.’

Now a bit of St Paul, actually. Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘I would have you without carefulness’. And he doesn’t mean, of course, you’re not to take care of yourself; he means you’re not to be anxious.

And then back to the words of Jesus: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. The very hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, for you are of more value than many sparrows.’ Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith? Have faith in God.

Well, quite a challenge! Why are you so fearful? Have faith. So as Christians, we have no need to be fearful. And I love that.

I mentioned the Psalms. Some of you may know, perhaps, that I am by way of being a hymn-writer, and that I often turn to a Psalm as the basis of something I want to write as a hymn – not a translation, but to give the thought. And people sometimes say to me, ‘What does it feel like when some words that you wrote are being sung by a congregation?’

Well, if they can’t sing it well, and that does sometimes happen, it’s very cringe-making! But if it’s being sung well, as in a ‘Big Sing’ from Songs of Praise, for example, it’s amazingly humbling. To think that God has ministered his grace through me in that way.

And sometimes, more than that, you just get a glimpse, through God’s goodness, of the way in which something he has given you to write has helped somebody else, spoken to them at a crucial moment.

I think of a telephone call from a dear friend, 20 years ago now. I was surprised to hear because I though he was in hospital, but he’d just been discharged, and was ringing me from home. But he’d been told that his days were very numbered. He hadn’t got long to live. He said that he and his wife, both mature Christians of long standing, in their evening prayers together, would together say the words of a hymn of mine.

You can imagine how that made me feel. And I think it’s possible that that hymn, which we’re going to hear sung in a moment, may have something to say to you if you’re finding these are difficult days. (The words in bold are read; all verses are sung).

  1. Safe in the shadow of the Lord
    beneath his hand and power,
           I trust in him,
           I trust in him,
    my fortress and my tower.

  2. My hope is set on God alone
    though Satan spreads his snare;
           I trust in him,
           I trust in him,
    to keep me in his care.

  3. From fears and phantoms of the night,
    from foes about my way,
           I trust in him,
           I trust in him,
    by darkness as by day.

  4. His holy angels keep my feet
    secure from every stone;
          I trust in him,
          I trust in him,
    and unafraid go on.
  5. Strong in the everlasting Name,
    and in my Father's care,
          I trust in him,
          I trust in him,
    who hears and answers prayer.

  6. Safe in the shadow of the Lord,
    possessed by love divine,
            I trust in him,
            I trust in him,
    and meet his love with mine.

Timothy Dudley-Smith (born 1926) from Psalm 91
© administered by Oxford University Press in Europe (including UK and Ireland) and Africa, and by Hope Publishing Company in all other territories (including USA), used by permission. All rights reserved.

So, today, I pray that that hymn may perhaps as you hear it sung, help you to reaffirm your faith in God, and your trust for the future. And before we sing, before we hear the hymn, perhaps I may pronounce a blessing on us all.

The blessing of God almighty,
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Be amongst us and remain with us and with those we love
Now and always,

Amen.

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